Second best is not an option for Socceroos at World Cup

Jason Davidson is left to ponder after the loss to the Netherlands at the Beira Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre. Picture: REUTERS
Jason Davidson is left to ponder after the loss to the Netherlands at the Beira Rio Stadium in Porto Alegre. Picture: REUTERS


Johnny Warren, circa early 2000s, a couple of years before his death: "We should not just aim to qualify for the World Cup, we should aim to win the World Cup."

The overwhelming consensus from the Australian media (pundits included) in the euphoric days after a World Cup defeat, which made the Socceroos one of the first nations to crash out of Brazil 2014 - we're halfway up the stairway to heaven!

But aren't we far enough advanced as a football nation now not just to limp onto the operating table in the Group of Death but to have designs on surviving it?

This is our third straight World Cup, right? Going out in straight sets in the group stage, no matter how many squillions of dollars is spent on the assembled superpower on the other side of the pitch, shouldn't be celebrated any more, right?

Game On, for the record, has been utterly enthralled with the Socceroos often out-samba-ing the world game's heavyweights Chile and the Netherlands for long periods.

This World Cup helped mend a staggering disconnect between our national team and a once-adoring public which widened under the forgettable Pim Verbeek-Holger Osieck tag teams.

Bravo, Ange Postecoglou.

Call his men brash, bold and brave as much as you want. They deserve some praise but don't also forget to call them for what they also have been: foolish, frail and fragile. They also deserve some criticism.

This is where Australia's biggest hurdle to football advancement is best depicted - and it has nothing to do with what's happening on the pitch.

As a football-watching public, we should have progressed far enough in the last decade not to expect a coaching lesson and cheerleading session rolled into one.

Give us independent analysis any day of the week.

For all the superlatives during the analysis of a Tim Cahill wonder strike, we also want to hear why Alex Wilkinson defended Arjen Robben so naively in the lead-up to the first Dutch goal.

For all the praise heaped on a slaloming Matthew Leckie run, we also want to hear why Mat Ryan couldn't keep out a Memphis Depay shot which didn't seem to have as much swerve and dip on it to these tired eyes as post-game analysis led me to believe.

Newspaper and radio commentary followed a similar narrow-minded theme: our boys were heroic.

They were, no doubt, but haven't we also blown a golden chance to put the rest of the world on notice by getting some results as well in the game's biggest shop window?

While ever we think small, we'll always be small in the global game.

It applies just as much to those who infiltrate our televisions, radios and newspapers as those who make the decisions about the style we want our national team to play.

Open the debate - good and bad elements - and let us make up our minds rather than telling us what we should be thinking.

A decade ago, when scraping tooth and nail into a World Cup was the holy grail, this type of one-eyed "analysis" which has dimmed Brazil 2014 may have passed muster.

A long time removed from that magical night against Uruguay, we should have progressed.

Maybe Johnny would have hoped so too.


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